Kotohira–Konpira Shrine

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19 October 2011

Not far from Takamatsu, also on the island of Shikoku, is the town of Kotohira which is best known as the location of the huge Konpira Shrine (officially called Kotohira-guu). This is another shrine whose origins are lost in the mists of antiquity. It is dedicated to the welfare of seafarers. It is also built up the side of a mountain, which makes visiting it rather strenuous.

To find the shrine you must walk down a street lined with religious-themed shops…

…which turns into a staircase lined with shops.

…leading to more stairs.

Finally we reach the gate.

Interestingly the architecture looks more like a Buddhist temple than a traditional Shinto shrine.

For example the gate has guardian spirits on each side, though these guardians look more like human warriors than the fanciful spirits found at the gates of many larger temples.

This is because most of the buildings date back to a period when a shrine could serve as a temple or vice versa. The Meiji reforms of the late 19th century required that these functions be separated.

After the gate there is a long pathway

…leading to more stairs.

At the next level there are some more interesting things.

Some large shrines display life-size plastic horses as a reminder of the days when people would give horses to shrines. This shrine however has real horses.

But we have to keep going–there are more stairs to climb.

The next level has a number of traditional buildings including several small museums.

Then there are more stairs to climb.

….to yet another level featuring a very large building.

…but then there are still more stairs

…and finally we reach the main level. Not that I was counting but I understand that was a total of 785 steps.

So we’re done, right? Guess again. Off to the right there are more stairs.

Interestingly the buildings here are in a standard Shinto style. This part must have been built after the Meiji Restoration.

By the time I reached this little rest house I was feeling rather fed up. Common sense told me to go back before it started to get dark. But I have a stubborn streak that made me determined to see what is at the top.

Finally I reached the summit.

I couldn’t resist buying an omamori in the shape of one of those dogs. There were no signs in English so I have no idea what it is supposed to do. Presumably it is supposed to provide some sort of protection.

All posts from this trip.